Making Better Business Decisions with More Research Data

No matter what people say about the government's effect on business, U.S. government agencies provide outstanding data for your small-business research, brainstorming, and decision-making. Here are roughly a half dozen (well, seven) of the very richest sites for small businesses:

  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA): This baby supplies all sorts of macro, big-picture economic data. Note that the data is often granular enough to give you insights into the local economy, too.

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: Not surprisingly, this site provides a whole bucketload of information related to labor economics. Do you need good data about what a particular job should pay, for example? You probably won't find better information than that available at this site.

  • Census Bureau: The U.S. Census Bureau, as you may know, collects and provides demographic data about the people and economy of the United States. The Census Bureau provides links to much of the data that the bureau collects and disseminates. This site is a super source of data about your potential customers or clients.

  • EDGAR: The EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval) system performs automated collection, validation, indexing, acceptance, and forwarding of submissions by public companies and others who are required by law to file forms with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This site is a great information source if you want to know what a business's financial situation is — or what someone who's employed as an executive of a public company makes.

  • Federal Reserve System: This government site provides information about the bank-supervision and monetary-policy-setting activities of the Federal Reserve System. The site also (perhaps a bit randomly) tends to publish really interesting research on the finances of people and organizations.

  • Government Printing Office: Relatively unknown, this site is extremely valuable because it provides free, downloadable copies of most federal-government documents.

  • Internal Revenue Service: Last but not least, the IRS deserves mentioning. Although the site is tailored to consumers, not businesses, it's still incredibly useful to anybody in business. You can apply for employer identification numbers online, get free forms, and research small-business tax questions.

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